The news, first reported on Derek Lowe’s blog In the Pipeline on Friday evening, was confirmed by Lauren Starr, a Pfizer spokeswoman, and comes just five years after Pfizer acquired the startup biotech. CovX had moved several molecules into early phases of development including CVX-060, an antiangiogenesis agent for cancer into Phase Ib/II trials, and CVX-096, a diabetes treatment, into Phase I. But Pfizer declined to provide any detail on the fate of either of these programs or on the fate of Rinat, the company’s other California-based biotech acquired in 2006.
One of the commenters on Lowe’s blog claiming to be a CovX employee said the unit will be shuttered March 8 because Pfizer had not been seeing any return on its investments in the unit. The quickness of the decision seems apparent in that there are open job listings for scientist positions at the CovX unit posted in the last week.
The closure of the California unit is also the company’s second major research unit to close recently. It comes only about a week since the company announced the closure of an R&D unit in Singapore that employed 30 scientists. That facility was one of only three Phase I clinical research facilities operated by the company globally.
The recent closures seem to be carrying over from cuts announced in 2011 and mostly conducted in 2012 when the company attempted to slash more than 10% of its R&D budget. Layoffs in England and Connecticut caused the company to shed as many as 3,500 positions in 2012.
But when Outsourcing-Pharma.com asked Pfizer if these cuts were related to another $1b in cuts to R&D that were slated for 2012 and are now carrying over into 2013, Starr told us, “In fact we are not slashing a billion from our budget this year. We reached a steady state of $7bn last year.”
She added, "We continue to prioritize our R&D capital allocation to drive the next wave of innovative medicines and vaccines to patients, from a robust pipeline. There has been no change in the amount we invest in R&D, but rather in the way that we invest it.”
Pfizer’s R&D cuts come as the company has lost patent protection on its blockbuster cholesterol drug Lipitor in late 2011 and its acquisition of Wyeth, which led to the closure of six R&D sites in 2009.